Read Shepherd One Online

Authors: Rick Jones

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #War & Military, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Military, #Spies & Politics, #Assassinations, #Terrorism, #Thriller, #Thrillers

Shepherd One

 

 

 

SHEPHERD
ONE

Book
Two of the Vatican Knights Series

 

Rick
Jones

 

 

 

 

© 2012 Rick Jones. All rights
reserved.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or
are used fictitiously and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to
actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental.

 

No part of this book may be used or
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case
of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more
information e-mail all inquiries to: [email protected]

 

Visit Rick Jones on the World Wide
Web at:

www.rickjonz.com

 

Visit the Hive Collective on the
World Wide Web at:

www.hiveauthors.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Also
by Rick Jones:

 

Vatican Knights Series

The Vatican Knights

Shepherd One

The Iscariot Agenda

Pandora's Ark

 

The Eden Series

The Crypts of Eden

The Menagerie

 

Familiar Stranger

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Volgograd
, Russia

October 25
th

 

When it comes to selling nuclear
weapons on the black market, Yorgi Perchenko holds an exclusive franchise.

Once a KGB operative who transitioned to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service at the end of the Cold War, he quickly became the
assistant director of Directorate S which included thirteen departments
responsible for preparing and planting illegal agents abroad, conducting terror
operations and sabotage in foreign countries, and promoting biological
espionage.

Now at the age of seventy-four and with his best years
behind him, Yorgi Perchenko found his forced retirement less than stimulating.
The one thing that made his life tolerable was the chilled bottle of Cristall
Vodka.

On a farm located on the outskirts of Volgograd, Russia, about 600 meters east of the ice-cold flow of the Volga River, Perchenko sat in a barn that
had grown infirm with age. The walls canted slightly but not dangerously so,
and the roof held the grand openings that allowed shafts of light to filter
down onto a floor carpeted with hay. Outside, a Peregrine falcon circled high over
the pines keening while Perchenko sat in an old wooden chair beneath the old
junctions of the barn-house beams. On the floor beside him sat a bottle of
vodka, the bottle more than half full, the glass in his hand more than half
empty. 

In his day he was revered and equally feared by a
constituency who regarded him as an angel by some, a demon by others. It all
depended upon how well an operative was able to maintain their integrity in the
field. To fail him earned his wrath. Those who disappointed him were sent to a
Gulag as an example to others within his ranks that failure was not an option.
The action proved to be a motivator that continued to sustain the communistic
principals of Mother Russia, until the moment of its collapse.

At seventy-four, the man who was once a giant among his
peers had become a black marketer who lived with the fading memories of times
when Russia held its chin brazenly outward in defiance against capitalistic
nations. It was a time that gave him unimaginable pride that what he did
validated a sense of self-worth—not the current sensation he was currently
feeling as a whore plying his wares for profit and becoming the very thing he
fought against: the product of capitalism. 

Raising his glass high, Yorgi Perchenko prepared himself for
a disheartening toast. “To Old Mother Russia,” he said. “And may she someday
return to a great power.” In fluid motion he brought the glass to his lips, and
downed the vodka in a single shot. Immediately he reached beside him, grabbed
the bottle by its neck, and poured himself another. After pouring two fingers,
he raised the glass once again in salutation. But this time to a man of Arab
persuasion who sat across the table.  

“And to my new friend,” he added, proposing a toast for
which he was the only imbiber. “Let us pray that this transaction will be as
rewarding for you as it will be for me, yes?”

The Arab said nothing, the rites of closing a deal a wasted
and unnecessary ritual, at least by his principles. 

 “Once an enemy of the state,” added Perchenko, “you are now
my comrade in arms, yes?” Perchenko drank from the glass—a quick tip that knocked
back the alcohol.

The Arab sat idle without providing a gracious rejoinder. And
his ongoing detachment and unmitigated calm was beginning to weigh on Perchenko,
as the men calmly measured each other. Even in Russia’s cold climate, Perchenko
could not see the man’s vapored breath, which conveyed to the former official
that this man possessed a remarkable sense of self-control. The Arab, however,
was not without his own caution, as his eyes constantly darted about and took
in the number of Perchenko’s armed forces, and committed their positions to
memory. 

For twenty minutes neither spoke, their resolve as steely as
their unflinching gazes as the air of mistrust between them became as thick as
a lingering pall. Each man remained a mystery to the other, knowing only what they
must in order to sustain a business arrangement between them. In this case the
common thread was the tie to a middle man, an al-Qaeda operative who brokered
the deal.

As seasoned as the old man was, there was something about
this particular operative that unsettled him. Although small and petite, and if
granted a more effeminate description due to his smooth skin and full lips, he
appeared to be on the cusp of manhood. His eyes—as black and polished as onyx
and seemingly without pupils—held incalculable intelligence. The only thing adult
about him was the minute loops of curly hair of an unkempt beard.

When the Arab first entered the barn he said nothing, the
course of the transaction already spelled out between the liaisons. As
instructed, the Arab was to proffer a suitcase filled with three million
dollars in American tender, then wait until the remaining balance of
twenty-seven million dollars was wired to existing accounts across Europe, the
Cayman Islands, the United States, and to dummy corporate accounts across
Russia before transferring the items purchased. 

As Perchenko studied his client, the man from al-Qaeda
remained unequivocally patient to the point where Perchenko thought the man’s
inaction was forced. But after gazing into his black eyes, the Russian considered
the Arab’s aloofness was not borne as a tool to position himself against
Perchenko’s tactics as a hardened negotiator, but that he was inwardly lost. It
was something Perchenko had seen many times before on the faces of those he sent
off to the Gulags. Appearances he relished just before they were ushered away
from his presence.

It was the look of a man who knew he had no future. 

Ten minutes later an armed contingent of men carrying three
aluminum cases, each the size of a hope chest, placed them on the table that
separated Perchenko from the Arab. Slung across each man’s back was an AN-94
assault weapon.

After spacing the cases apart, Perchenko’s men fell back and
brandished their weapons as a show of Perchenko’s authority, which fazed the
Arab little.

When Perchenko barked something in Russian, a member of his
team leaned over and whispered something into the old man’s ear. The sum of
three million dollars in non-counterfeit American currency had been paid in
full; not a dollar more, not a dollar less, with an additional twenty-seven
million dollars wired to numerous accounts throughout Europe, the United
States, the Cayman Islands, and Russia. 

Perchenko was pleased.

“Well,” the old man began as he labored to his feet. “Shall
we see what thirty million American dollars buys on the market these days?” Perchenko
approached the table. From the opposite side the Arab did the same, until
client and seller fell within a cast of light provided by a single gaping hole
in the rooftop.

The Russian Perchenko was an assuming six foot four and
densely packed. Even at seventy-four, his body was well maintained. The Arab,
at best, stood five six, but appeared to carry the size and weight of somebody
more formidable than someone of his unremarkable stature. It was something
Perchenko couldn’t put his finger on as to why this man possessed such great
presence and command.

Reaching for the case closest to him, Perchenko undid the
clasps and lifted the cover, exposing a network of boards, chips, switches and
relays beneath a flat Plexiglas shield. Packed in the center supported by steel
rods sat three burnished metallic spheres polished to a mirror finish.

If the Arab was enamored, he certainly didn’t show it.

Perchenko passed his hand gracefully over the display to
showcase it, as he spoke. “Each case holds a three-megaton yield,” he said,
“which is three times greater than the Cold War versions. Separately they would
do untold damage since the three cases together yield a destructive force almost
three-quarters of the Hiroshima bomb. And here’s the thing.” From the inner
pocket of his jacket Perchenko produced a BlackBerry, a top-of-the-line model,
brand new, and held it up for the Arab. “Each case possesses a built-in GPS receiver which is triggered by this.” He shook the device like shaking a snow globe. “Once
you insert your code and press ‘enter,’ then all three cases run as a single
unit. If one case triggers off, so do the others—they’re completely in sync
with one another. But for this to work properly, the cases cannot be separated
for more than five hundred meters. Beyond that distance, they work independent
of each other.”

He laid the BlackBerry down and slid it across the tabletop
between the weapons, where it came to a stop centimeters before the edge. “I’ve
also made the modifications you requested,” he added.

The Arab glanced at the BlackBerry but did not pick it up.

“In each of these cases there are altimeters to measure
atmospheric pressure. Once these weapons reach an altitude of twenty-five
thousand feet, then all three units arm themselves with the devices working as
a single component on a shared frequency. The moment they reach a descending level
of ten thousand feet, then the altimeters recognize the change in atmospheric
pressure, and all three units will detonate as a nine-kiloton yield.
Separately, if you care to mobilize and deploy them to different locations,
then each unit works separately as a three-kiloton yield. You can tool the
nukes as a combination of a single major weapon, or divide them into any
combination of three separate weapons to support your agenda.”  

The Arab picked up the BlackBerry and placed it inside the
inner pocket of his jacket. Then in perfect Russian, he said, “What about
anchoring the devices, once I have them in position?”

“After you secure the weapons to whatever locations that
suit your needs, then you initiate the GPS signal that enables one device to
talk to the other. If any one of these devices is moved without programming the
authorized code through the BlackBerry, or by someone who has no authority to
move the units at all, they will detonate. You can secure their positions from
one another for up to a distance of five hundred meters, and as little as one
meter without disturbing their umbilical frequency. This will keep anyone not
in your authority from attempting to move a unit away from the targeted
location.”

The Arab nodded his appreciation.

“Can I ask you a question?” said Perchenko.

The Arab stood with a blank expression.

“Out of my own curiosity, what do you intend to do with
these?”

The Arab, however, answered his question with another
question. “Are there built-in decoys to block any attempts to defuse them?”

“Top-of-the-line,” Perchenko stated unequivocally with a
boastful edge to his tone. 

“Then you have done everything I have asked.” The Arab stood
back from the table and away from the dim cast of light. “Now, would you be
kind enough to have your men load these units into the back of my vehicle?”

Perchenko nodded his head, the gesture galvanizing his team
to aid the Arab in his request.

“You haven’t answered my question,” Perchenko insisted.
“What do you plan to do with these?”

The Arab stepped aside as Perchenko’s troops lifted the
cases from the table and headed for the SUV parked beyond the barn doors, its
hatch raised.

“I choose not to say,” he answered flatly. “I would think
thirty million dollars grants me that right.”

Perchenko held his hands up in submission. “No harm in
asking, my friend. No harm at all, right?”

Without saying a word, the Arab turned and headed for his
vehicle.

“So that you know,” Perchenko called after him, “I don’t do
business twice in the same place . . . Or with the same people. I find it much
safer that way.”

The Arab didn’t turn around, but raised a hand in acknowledgement
as he kept walking. “I’ll have no further need for future services, since I
have all that I want,” he returned. And then he exited the barn.

A few moments later the SUV’s engine started and revved
evenly until the vehicle faded off into the distance. 

Perchenko stood within the feeble cone of light with his
lips pressed together in a tight grimace wondering if he used good judgment. He
also understood that certain weaponry could cause serious ramifications across
the globe, until nothing was left in its wake. 

But at seventy-four it was something Perchenko was willing
to chance.

But underneath he knew he had tabled common sense for greed.
Worse, he realized that he had given a loaded gun to a man with little or no
compunction.

Perchenko closed his eyes and shook his head.

What have I put in motion
?

 

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